• Movie

Official numbers are in, and the final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga, The Dark Knight Rises, earned a gargantuan $160.9 million in its opening weekend — the third-best debut of all time, and the best ever for a 2-D movie. The haul, which includes $19 million from 332 IMAX screens, is just slightly ahead of The Dark Knight‘s $158.3 million debut in 2008, and slightly behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2‘s $169.2 million in 2011.

Prognosticators said the film would finish somewhere between $180 and 200 million during its first three days (I predicted $192 million), but the tragic shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo. on Friday may have dissuaded some moviegoers from heading out to the theater over the weekend.

Before any news of the tragedy had broken, midnight grosses for The Dark Knight Rises proved robust. The film earned $30.6 million at midnight, the second-best total ever behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2‘s $43.5 million midnight haul. The early gross was also substantially higher than The Avengers‘ $18.7 million midnight bow.

The Dark Knight Rises didn’t immediately maintain its momentum. It finished Friday with a hefty $75.6 million (The Avengers started with $80.8 million), but then fell by 41 percent on Saturday to $44.9 million. No one can say conclusively that this drop was a direct effect of the shooting. The final Harry Potter installment fell 53 percent from Friday to Saturday, but again, that was bigger at midnight and had a stronger opening day ($91.1 million). The Avengers, which still holds the weekend record with $207.4 million, fell only 14 percent from Friday to Saturday, but again, was smaller at midnight. Perhaps the best comparison for Rises is the last Batman film, The Dark Knight, which fell by 29 percent from its first Friday ($67.2 million) to Saturday ($47.7 million). The Dark Knight Rises‘ performance on Sunday remained steady. During its final day of the weekend, Rises held up quite well, dropping just 10 percent to $40.2 million, which brought its total to $160.9 million.

There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I suspect, based on early tracking reports, pre-release conversations with Warner Bros., and the fact that almost every other movie in release plummeted 50-60 percent, that Dark Knight Rises was originally headed for a finish a little bit higher than its gross this weekend. On the other hand, the film had increased up-front excitement as the final installment in Nolan’s trilogy, and it may actually be the case that The Dark Knight Rises‘ grosses were not immediately affected by the shooting at all — but instead by common sequel front-loading.

Readers, what do you think of the Batman finale’s start at the box office?

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The Dark Knight Rises
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 164 minutes
  • Christopher Nolan